We take on the question now, and to be frank, a skilled player using a classic stroke as taught at About.com need not even use a straight pool cue to have fabulous results, let alone shell out big bucks for the "best pool cues".
The best pool cues aren't perhaps the ones you pay the most money for so checkout today's 8-Ball debate.
Donny And Matt: The 8-Ball DebatesToday's Debate, "Straight and Weight"
Q. How Critical Is It That A Cue Stick Is Perfectly Straight?
Matt: Straight cue sticks, let alone the best pool cues or most expensive pool cues made, aren't critical for 8-Ball. I enjoy crooked sticks at times. The student feels a twisting flex like the pro feels on a powerful stroke with a straight stick.
I recall one 1992 session with David Uwate (ACUI Champion that year). We purposefully ran 9-Ball using the most warped cues.
Once I spied on cheaters bending a cue, hoping to steal gambling at 3-Ball by fixing their opponent's break. The fellow made all three balls on the break with the bent stick, several times!
A real need is a perfectly straight (round, even, not hanging off the ferrule) tip. Willie Mosconi could broom a tournament win; he could have used a bent broom if it bore a decent tip.
Donny, The Grumpy Old Coach: If you are a cue maker or a cue seller, the straightness of a cue is critical. When I buy sticks on eBay, I always ask the seller, "Do the butt and shaft both roll straight (on a pool table), both together and apart?"
On the other hand, I once knew a player, "Fitzy" Fitzpatrick, who played for years with a rather badly warped cue, and anchored his team to the first Valley National 8-Ball Association's (VNEA) national title in 1981.
He actually used the same stroke for almost every shot, simply turning the cue to accomplish the correct hit on the cue ball! In 2004 I purchased a used Huebler cue with which I led three leagues in average at the same time, before I noticed that the butt had a rather pronounced warp.
I've concluded that if the warp is not major and not close to the tip, it may not affect play at all. Very few cues stay 100% straight over years of use, even the more warp-resistant laminated shafts.
Q. How Critical Are The Weight And Length Of Your Cue?
The G.O.C.: I've had success playing with cues from 17 to 21 ounces in weight, and from 56 to 60 inches in length! Too short a cue may limit your stroke, and too long a cue puts too much weight behind the grip hand. But it's what feels good to the player that counts. Standing 5'9" and 140 pounds, I use a 19-ounce, 58-inch cue.
Matt: In my younger days I owned an unidentified cue and sank every shot I saw. I resold my beauty thinking I now had "it" although it disappeared soon after I sold this, the best of pool cues! If you find my old "Balabushka" please tell me!
The pro may wield any decent cue to perform wonders. And the best pool cues are typically given them free of cost to use, bash or batter as they see fit, as compensated endorsers! But amateurs need weight and length matched to their style and wingspan.
I recommend 19.5 to 21 ounces for beginners but less for intermediates able to work a lighter stick. They (and sometimes me), however, admit we wistfully seek The Natural's stick, carved from a magic tree struck by lightning. Sigh.
Tempting, isn't it, the imagined Holy Grail Cue that makes more shots for you? Experiment if you wish, but realize the difference between the lure of your next new cue and the real magic of practice, competition and drills.
Donny "The Grumpy Old Coach" Lutz, BCA Certified Instructor, has recorded over 200 league and tournament titles including 43 league MVPs. Reach Donny at poolcool.zoomshare.com.
Matthew "Quick Draw" Sherman is the Guide to Pool and Billiards at About.com, a top five website millions of unique visitors monthly.
Donny and Matt live on opposite sides of Gainesville, Florida and are on opposite sides on many issues, but have somehow managed to win 5 doubles titles in recent years!The 8-Ball Debates:
Run Or Not Debate
Straight Cue Sticks Debate
8-Ball Or 9-Ball Debate
Bar Pool Tables Debate
Practice Methods Debate
Time Outs Debate
8-Ball Point Of No Return Debate
Break And Run Or Safety Debate
8-Ball Rules Debate
Break In 8-Ball Debate
Fantasy League Debate